The Srijan Foundation organized a talk by Sanjeev Sanyal at the Jawahar Lal Nehru University. The topic of his talk was ‘The forgotten history of India’s Maritime Past’.

Having discussed Gujarat and the ports, Sanjeev discusses the changing climate and how the Southern India burst with activity and the start of Iron in the South.

Around 2000 B.C., and there is plenty of evidence of this, there is a major climatic change worldwide and this is clearly shown, not just in pollen records and other scientific records, it actually shows through even in Achaedian records where they tell us that really bad droughts were happening. And roughly at this time the Saraswati river which incidentally at this point has already whittled down a lot, simply disappears. And a large number of settlements in around that area simply begin to be abandoned.

Incidentally, the old kingdom of Egypt also collapsed about this time and we suddenly see a dramatic drop in the number of Harappan artifacts that show up in all these areas. Clearly, the trade system was breaking down. Now just as an aside, we have never found any middle eastern artifacts or so to say even central Asian artifacts in any Harappan sites. So this is very mysterious because although Harappans was clearly exporting stuff including people. It’s entirely unclear what on earth were they importing.

Anyway, with the collapse of these Harappan cities, there were clear signs that there was migration southward towards the Narmada. There was also migration out towards Gangetic plains, many of these sites show cultural continuity in what is called later Harappan and then it fuses later to the Gangetic civilization. But I am not going into that because my interest is maritime. And this is now where it gets more interesting because you were much familiar with what I have talked about.

Now, what happens is that suddenly Central and Southern India come alive. Now till this point for some reason, to the evidence that we have, Southern India doesn’t really go through a bronze age. Harappans and all these civilizations that I mention are Bronze Age civilizations and for some reason, there wasn’t much of a Bronze Age in Southern India. And you suddenly have, about the time the Harappan civilization was falling apart, the Iron Age appearing in Southern India. They simply skipped Bronze Age and go into the Iron Age!

And this is very fascinating because the old idea was that this Iron Age essentially came to India along with the so-called Aryans coming, thundering down from central Asia. It turns out that the earliest place where this iron was found and used systematically is not even in Northern India but in and around what is now Hyderabad. In fact just a year ago some of the oldest iron implements anywhere in the world have been, in fact, found inside Hyderabad university campus. So that was basically what was happening!


The complete talk is available here: